A Look Back: Run and Shoot and The 1989 Houston Cougars
By: Tony Thomas
August 22, 2019
The 1989 Houston Cougars were an offensive juggernaut that put up prolific passing numbers in the old Southwest Conference, running up and down the artificial turf field of the iconic Astrodome.
The Cougars went 9-2 that year and ranked as high as #8, before ending the season ranked #14 in the final AP Poll. Houston was not extended a bid to any bowl games due to NCAA sanctions for violations that happened the previous year under former Head Coach Bill Yeoman. These sanctions also prohibited Houston from playing on television. How fun would it have been to watch this offense on T.V.?
The Head Football Coach in 1989 was Jack Pardee, and the offensive coordinator was John Jenkins, known as an offensive “guru”. Jenkins ran an offensive scheme called the “Run and Shoot.” More on that later.
The Cougars were led on the field by QB Andre Ware. Ware would pass for 4699 yards, 46 TD’s, and 15 INT’s. Running back Chuck Weatherspoon gained 1146 yards rushing and scored 10 TD’s, but also had 58 catches out of the backfield for 735 yards and 2 TD’s. Weatherspoon accounted for 1881 yards from scrimmage and 12 TD’s. RB Kimble Anders caught 60 passes for 621 yards and 3 TD’s. Ware would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, the first African-American QB and the first player to do so from a team on NCAA probation. He was also selected a consensus All-American, and won the Davey O’Brien Award for Most Outstanding QB.
Ware would lead the NCAA in several offensive categories that season:
- Pass Attempts= 578
- Passing Yards= 4699
- Total Plays= 628
- Pass Completions= 365
- Passing TD’s= 46
- TD’s responsible for= 49
The career numbers for Ware read like this: 8202 yards, 75 TD’s, 28 INT’s in 3 years (27 games played).
As you can see, the Run and Shoot spread the ball all around the field, resulting in 4 or 5 receivers each having 25 or more catches on the season. None were more productive than WR Manny Hazard.
Hazard recorded an amazing 142 receptions for 1689 yards and 22 TD’s, all tops in the NCAA. Hazard alone scored 132 points.
As a team, Houston scored 53 points per game, scoring over 60 points 4 times, over 90 points 1 time, and scored over 40 points 3 times. The Cougars 2 losses that year were by a combined total of 10 points: losing 17-13 to Texas A&M, and losing 45-39 to #13 Arkansas.
The Cougar defense was was aggressive and ball-hawking. They recorded 32 interceptions, allowed only 7 passing TD’s, and allowed 166 passing yards per game. DB Cornelius Price recorded 12 INT’s, and ran 2 of those back for touchdowns. As a team, they ranked #23 in the country, allowing 317 total yards per game. And, they were ranked #6 in scoring defense, allowing just 14 points per game.
The Run and Shoot Offense lined up 4 receivers on most plays and ran with no huddle. The scheme is run out of spread formations and is executed by receivers adjusting their routes based on the coverage and movements of the defense. It was very popular in the 1980’s and early 90’s. Jenkins would become head coach of the Cougars the next season, going 10-1., and ranking as high as #3 before finishing the season at #10. Jenkins would coach 2 more years before leaving the program. He would never coach in college again. He later would be a scout for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
The Cougars 1989 season was one for the ages, and the record books.
Thanks for reading.
Material for this article sourced from: http://sports-reference.com, http://ncaa.org, http://footballxos.com, http://vice.com,”How a Forgotten Offensive Guru Changed College Football” by Tim Casey, November 17, 2016.